Homeowner Tips on Energy Efficient Living

Homeowner Tips on Energy Efficient Living Congratulations on purchasing your new ENERGY STAR® Qualified home! Now that you’ve moved in, you may be wondering what makes your home unique. Here are some quick facts:

  1. Your home has been designed and built to a stringent ENERGY STAR for New Homes standard, administered by Natural Resources Canada.
  2. Every house is third-party tested and evaluated by a Certified Energy Advisor licenced by Natural Resources Canada.
  3. Your home will use approximately 20% less energy than a “code” built house.

Your home has been designed and built around the principles of “Whole House Performance”. This is an interactive system between the efficiencies and performance of the following:

  1. Mechanical systems
  2. Thermal envelope and insulation levels
  3. Building envelope and air-tightness
  4. Ventilation requirements
  5. Window performance
  6. Lighting and electrical consumption
  7. Renewable energy through heat recovery

Your builder has delivered to you a home with all the essential elements for energy efficiency and healthy living.  It is the homeowners’ responsibility to ensure that this balanced system continues to operate as it was designed once you have moved in. This on-going maintenance is no different than the energy you would put into maintaining a car. Some should follow a schedule, some are preventative, and some are just common sense. The following pages will attempt to answer some common questions about your home and provide maintenance tips and guidelines for keeping the system well balanced. We sincerely hope you will enjoy your newly purchased ENERGY STAR Certified home for many years to come! Kindest regards, A&J Energy Consultants

Basement

The basement walls may have a blanket-type insulation with a rating of R20. This blanket will be installed to just above the basement floor and will also have a vapour barrier made of Polyethylene covering the fibreglass insulation.,.  After moving in, you may see condensation on the inside of the poly, either on the blanket or between the floor joists above. This is a NORMAL occurrence as the foundation dries and in response to changing humidity levels and climatic conditions. This also means the vapour barrier is doing its job. Ask your builder if the poly should be cut to release excessive moisture and re-taped at a later time..It is recommended that you run a portable dehumidifier at least for the first year of occupancy. Keep furniture and boxes away from the outside walls to ensure good air circulation during this drying process.

Furnace

The heating system in your home is provided by a high-efficiency gas furnace. This system is meant to run for long periods of time as opposed to the “old-style” systems that constantly cycled on and off. The fan is equipped with a high-efficiency electronically commutated motor, which is designed to run continuously. If you are worried about the costs, this motor consumes approximately 70% less energy than a conventional PSC motor. The advantage: better air distribution through the entire house.

Maintain your furnace and change the filters regularly. Some manufacturers tell you to change your filter once every 3 months; we prefer every 6 weeks depending on lifestyle and other factors. Change your filter more often if you:

  • Have pets
  • Have teenagers
  • Never open your windows
  • Have a lot of people living in the house
  • Live in a construction site
  • See a lot of dust on furniture and floors

The best buy is a MERV 8 – 12 filter (higher number is better). These will filter out mold spores, pet dander, and most air-borne particles.  Although more expensive, the trade-off is cleaner air and improved indoor air quality. Not changing these filters regularly will also cause the furnace fan to work harder and use more energy. Make sure the arrow on side of the filter points towards the furnace.

Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)

The HRV is considered the “Lungs of the House”. It takes warm stale “extract” air from the house and vents it outside as “exhaust” air. At the same time, it takes fresh cold “supply” air from outside, where it passes through a heat-exchanger, and sends it back to the furnace as clean, pre-heated “supply” air. The HRV is inter-connected to the furnace blower and provides the following functions:

  • Recirculate: it mixes-up the air in the house and refreshes the air
  • Ventilate: gets rid of stale air and replaces it with cleaner outside air
  • Heat recovery: the HRV saves energy through its heat exchanger
Care of your HRV:
  • Clean filters regularly, usually seasonally or more frequently depending on the living environment. There are two filters, one located on the exhaust side and the other on the intake side. These are washable in warm water and will dry overnight.
  • Make sure there is no snow covering the outside exhaust and intake vents.

Don’t turn off the HRV! Your house is built tight to reduce drafts and air leakage. Your HRV is your source of fresh air! Turning it off may create moisture problems within the home. FACT: Studies have shown that the indoor air-quality of the average home, without an HRV, is at least 7 times worse than the outside air.

Water Heater

The water heater in your home is a Storage Tank with the following qualities:

  • High-efficiency condensing type
  • Works well with all water quality types (hard or soft)
  • Low maintenance
  • Little waiting time for hot water
  • Minimal heat loss through tank
  • Safe as it will not backdraft

 

Drain Water Heat Recovery

Your home is equipped with a Drain Water Heat Recovery pipe. This pipe is a heat-exchanger where hot water going down the drain pipe preheats the cold water in the outside coil. The pre-heated water goes to the water heater reducing the energy required to heat the water. A few points:

  • The heat recovery only works when running the shower
  • Water heating can account for up to 25% of total energy consumption
  • A Drain Water Heat Recovery pipe may reduce water heating costs up to 40% depending on lifestyle and number of occupants
  • This system requires absolutely no maintenance
Exhaust Fans

The fans in the bathrooms and laundry rooms are ENERGY STAR certified and designed to be energy efficient and quiet. The fan should be turned on when using these rooms especially when showering and run continuously for at least 20 minutes after. The fans are vented to the outdoors and remove excess humidity from your home. Not running the fans will create problems such as:

  • Condensation on windows
  • Mould growth in showers, tiles and grout
  • Poor indoor air quality

The fan cover should be removed and cleaned regularly with mild dish soap. This is a simple process where the cover is pulled straight down and released from the metal clips.. Make sure the fan is turn OFF before attempting to remove the cover. Do not get water into the electrical components!

Fireplace

Your gas fireplace will provide comfort and ambience without the mess and fuss of a wood burning unit. There are however other significant differences:

  • The units are power-vented through the outside wall and will sometimes feel cold to touch during the winter months
  • The unit has an electronic ignition system which is also sensitive to extreme cold. Think about trying to start your car at -25
  • Have your fireplace inspected once a year by a licenced professional
Lighting

Most of the light bulbs in your house are energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). These bulbs use a fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs and although more expensive, they have a quick pay-back period. Here are a few tips on bulb replacement:

  • When a CFL burns-out, drop it off at your local recycling centre or a store that will recycle them, because CFLs contain small amounts of mercury.
  • Not all bulbs are created equal. Buy ENERGY STAR certified bulbs as they last longer and are of better quality.
  • Both LEDs and CFLs have different spectrums from cool white (bluish) to warm white (almost yellow). Choose the one that works best for you.
  • LED replacements are more expensive but last a very long time (10,000 hours +). They make a great alternative to traditional 50 watt halogens.
Windows

The windows in your home are high-quality, energy efficient and ENERGY STAR certified. They are professionally installed and sealed to the framed opening with urethane spray-foam. They require very little care except for the occasional cleaning. Windows are made to be opened so don’t hesitate to let some fresh air in!

Windows are the most susceptible part of the house to heat loss and under the right conditions; condensation may result. Condensation may discolour the frames and occasionally encourage mould growth. Condensation on windows usually means that there is high humidity in proximity of the windows.

Ways to reduce condensation:

  • Run the HRV and bathroom fans to reduce humidity
  • Run the range hood when cooking
  • Make sure the dryer vent isn’t obstructed
  • Keep bedroom doors slightly open to encourage air circulation
  • If you install certain types of window treatments, such as California shutters, etc., don’t close them all the way as this will reduce air-flow over the windows. If condensation appears, open them more.
  • Don’t turn the thermostat too low as this will make the air even more damp and promote condensation
  • Remove snow from basement window areas

Remember: High indoor humidity + cold surfaces = condensation

High household humidity and condensation in your house is usually a result of lifestyle choices, not material failure.

Building Envelope

Your home has been built with a tight building envelope to reduce drafts and heat-loss, and improve occupant comfort. Every home has been tested with a “Blower Door Test” to ensure your builders’ exacting standards. This is also a requirement for ENERGY STAR certified homes. The performance of the building envelope, along with mechanical systems and insulation levels, all work together to provide an energy reduction above and beyond the Ontario Building Code. Any changes to the building envelope or mechanical systems will change the designed whole-house performance and may have unintended consequences. Here are some tips:

  • Installing shelves or hanging pictures: buy a stud finder. Don’t put random holes in the drywall as this will result in air leakage; aim for the studs
  • Inspect weather stripping around doors regularly
  • For renovations: hire an expert experienced in energy efficient construction.
Exterior

Water is the enemy! Keep water away from your house with these simple tips:

  • Inspect caulking around windows and vents every spring.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clear and connected so the run-off goes away from the house
  • Do not water your house; keep that swing and sway away from the bricks and siding. Remember, it’s the grass that is thirsty!
  • Shovel snow away from basement windows not against them

For more information about your ENERGY STAR Certified home visit: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/housing/new-homes/5057

The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are trademarks registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency